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In Defense of Selfishness: Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice is Unjust and Destructive

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  183 ratings  ·  34 reviews
From childhood, we’re taught one central, non-controversial idea about morality: self-sacrifice is a virtue. It is universally accepted that serving the needs of others, rather than our own, is the essence of morality. To be ethical—it is believed—is to be altruistic. Questioning this belief is regarded as tantamount to questioning the self-evident.

Here, Peter Schwartz qu
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by St. Martin's Press
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Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

The information in this fascinating book is so at odds with what I’ve been taught over the course of my life...but it makes so much sense that it has my head spinning. Could it really be that my own “selfish needs” and motivations regarding my hard-earned resources are not a moral weakness but a necessary strength?!? I must confess that Schwartz’s arguments ring true somewhere deep inside my soul. While I am not yet ready to take a stan
Apr 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won an ARC of this book through Goodreads. A very thought provoking book on the battle between selfishness and altruism. I closed the book with the goal to be more selfish - its ok to be selfish, we all should be! I definitely would recommend this book .
Ron Housley
Jul 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
In Defense of Self-Interest — why the code of self-sacrifice is unjust and destructive ©2015 by Peter Schwartz (Palgrave Macmillan)

A short BOOK REPORT by Ron Housley

For many, many years a barrage of non-stop warnings about altruism has bombarded my awareness.

What Peter Schwartz has done here is to cobble together in one place a diverse assortment of examples and instances of altruism run amok; a description of how altruism is misapprehended by most; an outline of the thinking which should have u
Apr 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: first-reads
To keep this review short, I won’t get into the myriad political opinions “In Defense of Selfishness” champions. I agreed with some, disagreed with others and could go on long enough about them to write a book of my own. It would be much shorter than this one was, however.

One of my biggest problems with this book was the length and repetition of almost everything. It had that feel to me of a college kid that’s trying to make his paper long enough to meet the teacher’s requirements and he’s just
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For anyone who looks at today’s world and wonders why western civilization seems to be under attack from every direction and is utterly unable to defend itself, this book is for you. Read it and judge for yourself whether what it says about selfishness (or rational self-interest) and altruism is true. For whatever reason, you may reject what it has to say, but at least you will understand that the sacrifices you are being asked to make every day, and are making, that they are willingly accepted ...more
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
As a libertarian, this book did not need to convince me though it certainly gave me a stronger philosophical foundation for my belief in liberty and the relentless message of altruism that pervades our society. This is the kind of book that needed to be assigned in college, but my professors inundated me with those thinkers that advocated for collectivism.

For the uninitiated, this book positively calls into question the dominant, status-quo philosophy of our time, that which leads us down the pa
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway.

Very thought-provoking, eye opening book, that i will review more fully in a few days.
May 11, 2015 rated it liked it
When I set out to review "In Defense of Selfishness" by Peter Schwartz, I had intended to comment only on the writing itself and leave the battle over the content itself to those willing to publicly battle with others whom have different viewpoints and no hope of one convincing the other to change his or her views. That decision proved untenable, it was akin to writing a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" article in the local paper and limiting the article only to the newly built house while ignoring ...more
Frederick Ford
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am an Objectivist, so I am very acquainted with the material. I live my life according to Objectivist principles.

I thoroughly enjoyed Peter's book. It is well written, and it was a pleasure to read. I know that I will read it again from time to time. I highly recommend it.
Bethari Bunga
Nov 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
The BEST book I have read in a while! The whole book discussed this big question: “Why does our society think that pursuing your own welfare is MORALLY TAINTED; but sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others is VIRTUOUS?”

There are several points of this book that I found interesting:

Firstly, this book argued that “What altruism demands is the payment of a debt (an unchosen moral debt you owe to others).” This made me think about voluntary works, and charity services we do; which led to the n
Muhammad Karuniyado
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book explained, clearly and logically, the very reason why being selfish is inherently different than what most people thought or what the common definition is. Partially caused by people are convinced the key of "being alive" is being altruistic and partially by how altruists abused the word 'selfish'.

Aside from re-defining the impure word 'selfish', Schwartz progress with real-life cases of the "have-nots" wanting the "haves" to be obligated (or feel obligated) to aid them. Even to the mo
I think Peter Schwartz does a comparatively poor job of playing "hide the ball" with the issues that Objectivism has.

He also -to reference the famous meme- hasn't read Locke. Read Locke. After you do that, explain why it doesn't make sense for an anti-theist to cite Locke as the basis for the idea that property rights should be seen as legitimate.

This is the quality of the author's thinking. You don't have to go on, so I won't.
Nov 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
A vehement argument against true altruistic behaviors. While the book makes some great points it is done in such a one sided argument that the author argues against compromise and equilibrium which of course has to be done on a daily basis. While I don't agree with all of the points in the book it is well written. ...more
Daryl Vogel
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
While a lot of ground here is already covered in Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishnes," Schwartz does a really good job of breathing new life into Rand's concepts while providing modern day examples/analogies and exposing these ideas to a new audience. ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Even though I do agree with the premise, the author builds a weak argument followed by some very marginal examples. It's probably not worth your time. ...more
Kevin Conti
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Wasn't that profound of a book, it seems to be a book that validates those who agree with its core premise and angers those who don't. It won't teach you anything you don't already believe. ...more
Glen Stott
Oct 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Glen by: Naftoli
Shelves: politics
This book compares and weighs the value of altruism vs selfishness making the argument that altruism is a non-survival action while selfishness is better for the individual and society as a whole. Much of the argument depends upon definitions of the words. In simple terms, altruism could be described as caring for other people and acting upon that concern. Schwartz would call that generosity, which is a gift freely given. However, the common definition of altruism is: The belief in or practice o ...more
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author of this book is a huge advocate of Ayn Rand's philosophies ("Ohhh, one of those people," you think to yourself), so if you're not a fan of Objectivism, you probably won't enjoy this book. As someone who believes in the virtue of selfishness (not the bastardized version we've come to associate with it) - the unwavering belief that in a free society, rational thought and self-interest should dictate our actions, I agreed with much of this book. Being self-interested does not mean that y ...more
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am familiar with Schwartz's other work, so knew what to expect, and that I would agree with it. My only concern is that it might simply be a rehash of things I'd already heard before. But that wasn't the case. Some elements of the book have appeared in Schwartz's other work but this book puts things together in a new way.

In this book, his approach to the topic is different from Rand's "Virtue of Selfishness" (which lays out a similar view of altruism). Schwartz is primarily concerned with get
Erin Martin
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
I read/listened to this at the same time as Huffington's Thrive. Both delve into the idea of altruism. The author of this book comes across as kind of a jerk BUT offers some interesting points, including how I'll look at how to measure/judge altruism going forward. He proposes we currently judge a "good doing" based on the sacrifice of the giver and not the end result, with some interesting examples. I also enjoyed and learned a lot from his observations of the FDA, and other government entities ...more
Michelle Only Wants to Read
I had a different idea about what this book would be about.
Even though the subject is interesting and the author makes some good observations, I have to admit this was not really my cup of tea.
According to his principles I'm a victim of altruism and I've been brainwashed to help others to the cost of my own benefit. I guess I have.
I suppose I live under the spell of a society who gives things to those in needs even if it means sacrificing our time, wealth, or resources.
My career field is devo
Harry Mulin
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable thesis that looks at the common moral spectrum of altruism vs selfishness (or Mother Theresa/Attila the Hun in Mr Schwartz's example) and asks "so where does an individual who lives his own life, takes care of his own children, and works to earn the means to pay for it all fit into the common spectrum?"

With many examples and a very clear progression explaining his conclusion, the book shows how most of us just don't fit. By explaining the true meaning of selfishness, Mr Schwartz demon
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
i will admit i really enjoyed reading about to be taken care of is to be controlled and i agree with this chapter especially concerning the government as we are controlled no matter what aspects of our life and i do agree that life is a gife and take so that is about all i can really say about the book even though i thought it was going to read something else but at least we all have a choice as to how we write these reviews
Greg Clark
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
About 3.5 stars. Nothing really new or ground breaking in here, mostly parroting John Galt's speech from nearly 60 years ago. Throughout most of the book I did find myself nodding in agreement. Some very lazy logic towards certain religions is always to be expected from objectivists. A decent read. ...more
Kevin Clark
Jun 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
Couldnt even finish. A sad philosophy that sets up a view of altruism gone way extreme and then tears it down, using even biblical teachings as a negative argument. Mixing commom sense into a God-less philosophy doesnt make it right.
deleted d
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
In defense of selfishness 4/5
Being selfish can help the environment
Very good, shows points to why u can make things worse with altruism and better with capitalism.
I'm still skeptic to some extent but I think it's thought provoking
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, couldn't be more timely. ...more
Aug 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Very interesting concepts, full of examples. altruism or entitlements are the cancer of our society. not an easy subject and a bit repetitve
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it
A good chunk of it reads like a rant, but I have to agree with some of his points.
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Peter Schwartz is the author of the book In Defense of Selfishness: Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice Is Unjust and Destructive (Palgrave Macmillan, June 2015).

He's a former Chairman of the Board, and currently a Distinguished Fellow, of the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. He writes and lectures extensively on topics ranging from ethics and political philosophy to environmentalism and multicultural

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82 likes · 22 comments
“What altruism demands is the payment of a debt—an unchosen moral debt you owe to others.” 0 likes
“If people believe they have unmet needs, you are legally required to meet them. You may not insist that a person’s actual interests are not advanced by irrational means—by coercion, by fraud, by injustice. You may not tell the needy that what they truly need is the opposite: a system in which individual rights are respected, force and deception are outlawed and justice is upheld. You may not admonish them to live off their own efforts rather than mooch off the work of others. You may not tell them they are harming themselves by seeking the unearned. If they believe they are entitled to your sacrifices, it is selfish of you to value your judgment over theirs.” 0 likes
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